At the age of 8, Rob Hodgson would open the gym before practice, turn on the lights, and sweep the floors while acting as a ball boy for the basketball team coached by his father, Robert.
Throughout the years, the son had a courtside seat as his dad acted as a teacher and life coach to countless young men.
His father, Robert Hodgson, boys basketball coach at William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach for the past 23 seasons, died Saturday at Stony Brook University Hospital from complications following a heart attack. He was 63.
As coach of Floyd, the Shirley resident had a 265-190 record and won the Suffolk Class A and overall championships in 1994 and 1997. Last month, the Colonials won their first county championship in 15 years with an eight-point win over Central Islip in the Class AA final.
"He was a taskmaster to the kids, but he was like a demanding father," said Jim Casey, a longtime friend of Hodgson's and his assistant coach for the past 13 years. "He gave them discipline, and he gave them love."
Robert Hodgson was a two-sport star at West Islip High School, where he quarterbacked the football team and was the Section XI Tournament MVP on the basketball team that won the Suffolk title in 1967. After graduating that same year, he played basketball at Penn State University, where he received a bachelor's in education. While at Penn State, he met his wife, Lynn, to whom he was married for 38 years.
After earning an master's in sports administration from Ohio University, his son said Hodgson coached at several high schools in South Dakota and at Ohio Dominican University before returning to Long Island in 1987 when his high school basketball coach, Gerry Smith, hired him as an assistant coach at West Islip. Two years later, he moved on to Floyd, where he coached and taught physical education and health.
"He's had success and won games, but the real legacy are the kids that have played for him and the lives that he touched," said Rob Hodgson, who was named Newsday's Long Island Player of the Year in 1994 before playing basketball at Rutgers University and overseas professionally for 10 years.
Other survivors include two sons, Rex of Vancouver, B.C., and Ryan, an Army captain based in Honolulu, and a daughter, Rose Hodgson, of Lowell, Mass.
The wake will be Wednesday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Roma Funeral Home in Shirley. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Jude's Roman Catholic Church in Mastic Beach. With Bob Herzog